Dissertation Information for Stephen Henry Peters
MPACT Status: Fully Complete
Title: Characteristics of the sources used by American historians writing on the history of modern Germany
Abstract: Previous citation analyses of history have examined the characteristics of sources used by historians writing about their own countries. This study looked at the sources used by historians in the United States who wrote about modern Germany, and it considered the question of whether history should be considered one of the social sciences. Building on the concept of hard, or scientific, and soft disciplines, three characteristics were identified that would provide objective evidence for the determination of an answer to this question: the percentages of monographs and serials, the percentage of recent sources, and the percentage of self-citation. Following the basic methodology laid down by Fussler, this study analyzed 5,015 references drawn at random from all books and periodicals on modern German history published in 1938, 1960, and 1982. A significant factor influencing all results was the definition of what constituted a countable item, which was placed at the single item level whenever possible. The three major characteristics examined provided the objective evidence sought as to the hardness of history. The ratio of monographs to periodicals (1.21:1) and the subject dispersion (18.1 percent) showed that history belonged with the social sciences. The percentage of recent references (9.5 percent) was the lowest for any discipline and showed that history should be considered one of the humanities. These results, when combined, indicated that history is a soft social science that acts as a bridge to the humanities. Two of the minor characteristics--language of the source and place of publication--clearly revealed the international dimension of history. Over 62 percent of the references were to items in German and over 57 percent of the references to published items were to items published in Germany. The remaining characteristic--the percentage of primary and secondary sources--showed a decline in the percentage of primary sources when compared to previous studies.
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